Notes: Pitino shoots down UNLV question
Published on Wednesday, 1/20/16, at 12:49 p.m. Eastern.
—My preview of tonight’s college hoops action filed to VegasInsider.com.
–My buddy Matt Youmans, the long-time UNLV basketball beat writer for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, reported early Sunday morning that a source close to Rick Pitino insists the 63-year-old head coach is interested in the UNLV job. When asked about the UNLV rumor at Tuesday’s presser in Louisville ahead of tonight’s home game against FSU, Pitino said, “Next question, guys. Anybody have a basketball question about Florida State? I’ll be glad to answer it. But please don’t talk about job openings in January.”
–For those laughing at the notion that Pitino would even consider bolting to Las Vegas, wait a minute. Remember, Pitino flirted with the Rebels 15 years ago, even visiting the school after he left the Boston Celtics. He has had a miserable year at Louisville with the latest scandal. When you’re Pitino and you’ve won multiple national titles, one at UK and one at U of L, you can survive one scandal. The whole episode with ‘Tricky Ricky’ literally in a courtroom testifying about having sex with a woman (Karen Sypher) in 15 seconds at a restaurant was enough to put U of L AD Tom Jurich through the ringer in standing by his head coach. Now in the last several months, a book has come out from a former Madam claiming that a U of L staffer paid for hooker to entertain recruits. Pitino has insisted that he knew nothing and to date, Jurich has stood by his man. But doesn’t everyone get the sense that Pitino and Jurich both know that this is probably the last straw? An NCAA investigation looms. Pitino respects the hell out of Jurich and the guess here is that his potential exit would just make life easier for everyone. At the same time, I still believe Pitino wants to keep coaching, perhaps for another decade. Perhaps most important, you can still win at UNLV. The city loves the Rebels, who have a huge arena that would be filled every night when Pitino’s team played. And make no mistake, Pitino still wants to be loved, which is probably the biggest point here. He isn’t feeling the love in Louisville right now, but he would own Sin City in the blink of an eye. Dave Rice proved you can still recruit elite talent to UNLV. Lon Kruger proved you can still get to the NCAA Tournament on a regular basis. The Mtn. West Conference had some excellent seasons recently, but it is a league on the decline the last two years. Steve Fisher’s strong run at San Diego St. is coming to an end. In other words, Pitino could come in and start winning big instantly and the degree of difficulty wouldn’t be nearly as high as it is in the ACC, where he competes with UNC, Duke, Syracuse and a host of other elite programs. Maybe UNLV won’t be Pitino’s choice but for those that don’t think he’s mulling potential options beyond U of L after this season, well, perhaps you aren’t seeing the big picture.
–For those that don’t remember the Sypher Trial, you can get caught up on the comical details here.
–The ‘over’ has hit in five in a row for UCLA and eight of its last 10. The Bruins are short underdogs tonight at Oregon St. They have lost in each of their last three trips to Corvallis. The total is 145 points.
–I went 2-0 in college hoops last night, cashing with Clemson as a double-digit underdog in a 69-62 loss at Virginia and the Northwestern Wildcats, who were 12-point ‘dogs at Maryland and lost by six in overtime. I have these picks posted for tonight.
–Clemson had its five-game winning streak snapped in Charlottesville last night, but it has still covered the number in seven consecutive games.
–Most books are listing Michigan St. as a 14-point home favorite vs. Nebraska tonight. The total is 142. The Spartans have lost back-to-back games and they’re mired in a 2-5 ATS slump. However, we should note that Tom Izzo’s team has thrived as a double-digit favorite this year, compiling a 7-2 spread record. Meanwhile, Nebraska owns a 5-3 spread record in eight games as an underdog. The Cornhuskers have won three in a row and have taken the cash in four straight outings. They have also won the last two head-to-head meetings with Sparty, going 3-0-1 ATS in the last four encounters.
–Michigan St. will be without Lourawls Nairn Jr., who is expected to miss a couple of weeks with plantar fasciitus. Nairn scores only 4.1 points per game, but he has a stellar 81/17 assists-to-turnovers ratio.
–The ‘over’ is 10-3-1 for Nebraska this year and going back further, the ‘over’ is on a 16-4-1 roll for the Cornhuskers. On the flip side, the ‘under’ is 11-7 overall for the Spartans, 6-2 in their home games at Breslin Center.
–Florida avoided a bad loss tonight by pulling out an 81-78 home win over Mississippi St. Senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith led the way with 20 points and 13 rebounds, while freshman Kevaughn Allen finished with 19 points, five boards and two steals. The Bulldogs covered the number as 10-point underdogs.
–Perhaps most important for UF, its profile was helped by Oklahoma St.’s upset win over Kansas last night. The Cowboys have had a rough year, but the Gators’ win over them will now look a whole lot better.
–Xavier also fell victim to an upset last night at home vs. Georgetown.
–Michigan owns a 6-1 spread record in seven games as a double-digit favorite this year. The Wolverines are 16.5-point home ‘chalk’ tonight vs. Minnesota.
–The ‘over’ has hit at a 7-1 clip in Michigan’s last eight games. The total tonight against the Gophers is 141 points.